cover image The Good-Bye Window: A Year in the Life of a Day-Care Center

The Good-Bye Window: A Year in the Life of a Day-Care Center

Harriet Brown. University of Wisconsin Press, $22.95 (264pp) ISBN 978-0-299-15870-5

Brown, a freelance journalist and concerned parent, observes the daily routine at the Red Caboose day-care center in Madison, Wis., which her older daughter once attended and where her younger daughter has been a student. Brown divides the book into four sections, each one focusing on both a season and a particular age group. Between overly detailed descriptions of playroom machinations, Brown profiles the administrative complexities of the center and its chronic scramble for money and clients. The structure of the book makes sense; but some of the author's conclusions will puzzle the reader. Obvious statements such as ""if there's one thing little kids don't do well, it's wait"" and ""kids need to exercise their muscles as well as their minds"" are less troubling than reports of bussing three-year-olds to the library to watch cartoon videos (Dr. Seuss, but still...) and encouraging them to shout out explicit terms for genitalia in order to catalogue differences between the genders. Brown shows little evaluation, insight or emotion in her reports on these episodes or in her description of the window where children wave good-bye to their parents and that has such sad associations that they otherwise avoid it. In her epilogue the author comments that until our society is willing to invest more money, child care won't reach the level of quality our next generation deserves. It is all the more confusing, then, that her prologue insists she's going to tell us ""what's right"" with this day-care center. Author tour. (Nov.)